New Zealand introduces paid leave for miscarriages and stillbirths

Women who suffer a miscarriage – and their partners – will be entitled to three days’ paid leave in New Zealand

  • The new bill provides Kiwi mothers and their partners with three days paid leave
  • Circumstances for bereavement leave extended for pregnancies lost at any point in cycle
  •  An estimated 10-20% of pregnancies in New Zealand result in miscarriage

Working mothers and their partners in New Zealand will be allowed to take paid leave after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The bereavement allowance, passed after a unanimous vote in parliament late Wednesday, gives employees three days’ leave when a pregnancy ends with a stillbirth, rather than forcing them to use their sick leave. 

The bereavement leave extends to a woman’s partner if she suffers a miscarriage, as well as to people who were attempting to have a child through surrogacy.

The new proposed law has broadened the circumstances under which would-be mothers in New Zealand can take paid bereavement leave. Mothers and their partners who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth would receive three days paid leave

Prior the the bill’s approval New Zealand already provided paid leave for mothers who suffered a stillbirth after 20 weeks or more of pregnancy. The new legislation will broaden bereavement leave to mothers and partners who lose a pregnancy at any point.     

The New Zealand Ministry of Health estimates that between one and two out of every ten pregnancies result in a miscarriage.  

Ginny Andersen, the lawyer and parliamentarian who drafted the bill, said a stillbirth should be recognised with dedicated bereavement leave but the stigma that surrounds the issue meant many people were reluctant to discuss it.

‘The grief that comes with miscarriage is not a sickness; it is a loss, and that loss takes time – time to recover physically and time to recover mentally,’ she told parliament.

The new bill does not apply to pregnancies ended by means of abortion. New Zealand decriminalised aborion in 2020.

New Zealand’s Labour MP and lawmaker Ginny Andersen who has spent years working on the bill and drafter the proposed law

The new bill is expected to become law in the following weeks.   

Other countries across the globe have similar policies in place. 

In the UK miscarriages suffered before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy do not qualify for any leave. However mothers who suffer stillbirths following the 24th week of pregnancy are entitled to maternity leave and accompanying pay. 

In India, women are entitled to six weeks of leave if they suffer a miscarriage. However, the majority of female employees in the country work in the informal sector and therefore are not entitled to the leave.

The Canadian province of Ontario provides women with 17 weeks of unpaid leave is they lose a pregnancy up to 17 weeks before the baby’s due date.

In Australia, would-be mothers who suffer a miscarriage after the 12th week of pregnancy receive unpaid leave. 

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